What is 'sogflation' and how is it threatening food supply chains?

From increasing energy prices to the impact of geopolitical unrest on supply imports, the food industry is facing a whole host of challenges, the greatest of these being climate change.

Climate change itself is impacting the food industry in multiple ways, one of these being ‘sogflation’.

What is sogflation?

FoodNavigator recently reported on the damaging effects of extreme high temperatures and drought on crop production and the subsequent rise in the price of these commodities. This price rise has come to be termed ‘heatflation​’.

First coined by Bloomberg columnist, Lara Williams, so-called sogflation refers to the opposite end of the spectrum, highlighting the rising price of commodities as a result of sustained heavy rainfall and flooding causing damage to crops. 

How is heavy rainfall and flooding impacting food security?

It’s been a tale of two halves across much of Europe in recent years. Some countries, such as Spain, have been hit by extreme high temperatures and drought, impacting crops such as olives​. Meanwhile other countries, such as France and Germany, have been subjected to heavy rainfall and flooding, which has damaged crops such as wheat and corn.

“In 2023, Europe witnessed the largest wildfire ever recorded, one of the wettest years, severe marine heatwaves and widespread devastating flooding” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the EU’s climate agency, Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

What is ‘sogflation’ and how is it threatening food supply chains? GettyImages/Steve Bateman

In the UK, the eighth wettest winter on record​, resulted in widespread flooding across the country, including farmland, with wheat, barley and vegetable farmers reporting losses to floodwaters.

“Since the end of last year, we have seen hundreds of farms across the country face the devastation of flooding and the huge financial stress and misery that brings. Some farms in Lincolnshire have been under water since last October and that is completely unacceptable,” Tom Bradshaw, president of the National Farmers Union, told FoodNavigator.

And it’s not just agricultural farming affected. Livestock farmers have also been negatively impacted, with the loss of the use of grazing land for their animals. However, even when flood waters have receded farmers have remained unable to graze livestock on the land as the soil is saturated. In 2024, this meant that dairy farmers in affected areas missed out on a time known as “the flush”. The flush is a period of maximum milk production where the cows are typically outside grazing in the fields, gaining plenty of energy from the grass and producing plenty of milk.

Furthermore, the effects of climate change are not only been felt in Europe, they’re being felt right across the globe, with devastating floods in Rio Grande do Sul currently threatening the soybean harvest​. This crop is primarily used in animal feed, making it a concern for the soybean farmers themselves, as well as livestock farmers who rely upon this supply.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that globally, “floods are increasing in frequency and intensity, and the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation is expected to continue to increase due to climate change”. 

Sogflation - flooded corn field - GettyImages-BanksPhotos

What is ‘sogflation’ and how is it threatening food supply chains? GettyImages/BanksPhotos

How is heavy rainfall and flooding impacting food prices?

The impact of heavy rainfall and flooding on farmers and their produce has inevitably impacted the cost of the commodities they produce, pushing prices up.

Commodities such as butter​ have risen in price in recent years, with heavy rainfall and flooding cited as one of the primary reasons.

More recently, the UK has seen the price of potatoes rise as a result of rain damage to harvests during the 2023/24 growing season.

“The tightness in supply has been driven by weather issues throughout the harvest period with heavy rainfall leading to an increase in rots and other quality issues. Further exacerbating the poor conditions was the fact that many growers had delayed crop lifting to bolster yields, following delayed plantings at the start of the season. This resulted in a higher proportion of the crop remaining in the ground when poor weather conditions began,” said Harry Campbell, commodity market data analyst at market intelligence firm Mintec.

Similarly, heavy rainfall in the Netherlands and Belgium has led to concerns over potato prices across Europe as the two countries serve as major potato suppliers to the region, behind Germany, Poland and France.

Sogflation - sheep - GettyImages-hmproudlove

Sogflation: What is it and what does it mean for the food industry? GettyImages/hmproudlove

What can be done to protect future food security?

As sustained heavy rainfall and flooding continue to negatively impact food production, it is becoming increasingly clear that measures need to be taken to create more resilient food systems​​ and protect future food security.

“Our new analysis shows that Europe faces urgent climate risks that are growing faster than our societal preparedness,” said Leena Ylä-Mononen, executive director of the European Environment Agency (EEA). “To ensure the resilience of our societies, European and national policymakers must act now to reduce climate risks both by rapid emission cuts and by strong adaptation policies and actions.”

What is causing these sustained and extreme weather events?

Though some weather events are anomalies, occurring rarely and resulting from unusual weather patterns, the overarching trend towards extreme weather events is attributed to climate change.

What are the primary causes of climate change?

  • Burning fossil fuels: ​The burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, and coal, releases carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere, causing the earth to heat up.
  • Deforestation: ​Trees take in carbon dioxide for use in photosynthesis, so the cutting down of trees removes this vital process. Additionally, the carbon dioxide, which is stored within the trees is released back into the atmosphere if the wood is burned.
  • Agriculture: ​Planting crops and rearing animals releases multiple different types of greenhouse gases, including methane from livestock and nitrous oxide from fertilisers, into the atmosphere.